Thursday, July 20, 2017

Poland

  1. After renting our car in Warsaw we headed to Lodz- finally made connections with the landlady for our apartment. We had time to walk to the Manufactura mall- the largest in Europe. Old warehouses had been renovated and they made a huge attractive complex with even a beach volleyball area.  We walked around, window shopping, saw some folk dancing and ate at the Taverna. I had tomato soup, codfish, potatoes and beer; Teresa had tagliatelle with steak and side salad and wine. All very good.









In the morning we walked in the other direction from the apartment. That street seemed to be the main commercial street in town  and was quite charming.





At 10:00 a.m. we left for Wroclaw and arrived at the hotel before 1:00. The roads continued to be excellent. After checking in we walked into Old Town and were pleasantly surprised at how gorgeous everything was- clean and tasteful.

First was St. Elizabeth's Church, then the main square with the famous City Hall. We got some kielbasa right off the grill with sauerkraut- the mustard was outstanding. 










Down to the University hitting more churches along the way. We crossed the river to see the Cathedral. Diminutive gnomes were scattered about the city. 
















We then spent some time at the Botanical Gardens.





Back across the river to a park then the Panorama; an amazing scene depicting a battle in 360 degrees. There was an English audio guide that first explained how the panorama was created, both through painting and the 3 dimensional objects in the foreground. The guide then took you through the scenes to explain how the battle unfolded which was a Polish victory over the Russians.











We then went in the University Church on the way back to the hotel. No pictures because a mass was going on.


We strolled before dinner - ate at Masala, and Indian restaurant. I had goat tandoori, Teresa had chicken tandoori with rice and cheese na'an. I had a Cobra beer, Teresa had wine- all outstanding- $36.

Later Teresa got 2 chocolate baklavas- closing down for the week sale 2 for $2.20. I had a strawberries and cream ice cream cone. We strolled some more before going back to the room.







After a good breakfast we drove to Ksiaz castle. The castle was best known for all the aristocratic scandals associated with it.  















From there we drove to Swidnica and its "peace" church which was built in 9 months without nails, stone, masonry or anything else due to an arrangement with the Hapsburg's after the 30 Years War. 2 of the 3 created still stand.




Back to Wroclaw where we tried periogi and a salad- the salad was better than the dumplings.


On to the Palace which contained a museum of the city- plenty of information, plenty of English.

Back to the room at 5:00 p.m.

Because of intermittent rain we decide to eat close by and chose Akropolis on the main square. I had a seafood soup and tagliatelle with chicken and a large beer, Teresa had lamb stew and mixed vegetables with wine. While the food was tasty Teresa did not get noodles or scallions in her soup and they initially forgot her mixed vegetables.

In the morning we drove to Krakow and checked in about 1:00 p.m. After a huge kebab for me (I didn't finish) and a Greek salad for Teresa we joined the yellow umbrella Free Walking Tour. First was the largest medieval square in the world, then the Merchant's Cloth Hall, and we heard the trumpeter from theTower by the Church.



We saw the university and where John Paul II studied and made it to the Palace with its cathedral and courtyard.









We took the spiral staircase down to see the dragon breathe fire.




We strolled back to the square, took in a few churches, and had very good Dobronski Cider- one pear, one apple at the Sioux Restaurant. Back to the room.




For dinner, at the advice of our tour guide, we walked outside of the tourist area to Krichnia u Doroty. I had beef strogonoff, a mixed salad and a large radler; Teresa had a beet salad she raved about and potato pancakes with goulash and wine. Everything was great -$14.50. We checked out the square on the way back to the room.


In the morning we drove to the mountains; first to Ustron which we drove through, and then to Wisla where we stopped, walked around and ate lunch which was a waffle with strawberries, whipped cream and strawberry and chocolate syrup.



We then drove to Malinka where we took the chair lift by the ski jump to the top of the mountain. We walked along the top for a while then back down and back to our car- about 1 ½ hours.












We took the “scenic” route back to Krakow which was marked mostly by stoppages in traffic and got back to our hotel by 6:00 p.m.

For dinner we went to Old Town Restaurant which, despite its name, was outside the tourist area. It was rated #5 of 1243 restaurants in Krakow and lived up to its billing.
We shared 3 Strong Bow dark fruit ciders and 2 starters: fried sheep cheese with bacon, blackcurrant confiture, and arugula and potato pancakes with mushrooms marinated in white wine- all delish. We also got complimentary smalek with bread. For the entree I had rabbit leg in a mustard/wine sauce with potatoes and mushrooms. Teresa had duck with red cabbage, barley and gooseberry sauce. We both had an aperitif of apple cinnamon vodka.

In the morning we strolled north to see the Grunwold Monument (battle with the Teutonic Knights) and began our visits to 8 churches with some shopping in between, and then the Jewish Quarter, the Synagogue and the Oskar Schindler Factory which has been transformed into a very elaborate museum chronicling Krakow from right before WWII and through it.







We came back to see the Cathedral, the Underground Medieval Museum was sold out.





We cleaned up at 6:00 and went to a string quartet concert. The four beautiful young ladies played exquisitely from Bach, Mozart, Vivaldi and Chopin to Glenn Miller and themes from The Godfather and Schindler's List.




After the concert we went to Cyklops for dinner – the highest rated pizza place in town, which did not disappoint. We shared a big salad and a large pizza; I had a craft beer, Teresa had wine - $18.25.

We then sat at the fountain in the square for a while watching break dancers and Teresa's favorite guitarist. We did more shopping and I got good gelato.



In the morning we headed to Lublin. The drive was not too bad until we got near our hotel as a bike race was going past it and the road was blocked. Carmen wasn't too helpful and Teresa's google maps was a little more so. We parked in a pay garage and tried to check in but the only non-smoking room available was not ready until 2:00.

We therefore did some exploring through the Old Town, first to the Square and then to the castle with its chapel famous for the best preserved Byzantine frescoes in the world.




















We then checked out some churches though somewhat thwarted by two weddings.

Seeing that the barriers had come down we moved our car closer .

For dinner we ate at a restaurant on the Town Square and Teresa won. She had pork chops in mushroom sauce- I had the equivalent of wiener Schnitzel, my first sub-par meal of the trip, though the fries were okay, the cabbage good, as well as the sour sausage and boiled egg soup- $21.

After dinner we made it to Bosko's for gelato. The Old Town had about 30 ice cream shops but this was by far the most popular (line way outside the door) and the highest rated- well-deserved – generous scoops and scrumptious ice cream.


Lublin had its own version of colorful fountains which we saw with 3,000 of our new friends.





In the morning we drove to Bradovieza where the National Park Forest was located (shared with Belarus). We first walked through the area where the tsars had a hunting palace and preserve. We ate a so-so lunch on the grounds.



We then drove to a corner of the Park where animals were fenced in as they are hard to find walking through the enormous Park.
The prize of the enclosed area is the collection of bison- one of their last refuges. They also had deer, wolves, boars and ice-age horses.











We went back to our Hotel Zubrowska which was fantastic.

We went to the 3rd floor spa area and were able to book massages for 5:00. Until then we went to the salt cave where we read for a while. After the very relaxing massages we went down to the elegant indoor swimming pool where we swam, read some more, sat in the hot tub and then spent some time in the sauna.

It seemed the only good restaurant open that Sunday night was at our hotel so we ate there.

We first got some pate with some bread and gooseberry/horseradish sauce. I got pielmieni which were small dumplings with minced boar or beef in them in a cream and mustard sauce- delicious. For the entree I got a deer roll in bacon with gnocchi and red cabbage and Zubr beer- all great. Teresa had pasta with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, Parmesan cheese and wine. We both had apple tarts with ice cream- $48

A very good breakfast at the hotel and then the drive to the Lake District. The Mazurian Lakes are a series of large lakes connected by canals that allows transport over an extensive area.

We stopped at a few places along the way to see the lakes and some nesting storks.


We arrived in Gizycko before 3:00 and checked into our bungalow overlooking the lake. It had a living room, dining room and kitchen with a picnic table on the front porch where we ate a late lunch.






We drove into town and walked to the harbor and downtown area as well as the swing bridge which was at that time closed to vehicular traffic. After a trip to the supermarket- back to the cabin.






We drove into town for dinner at a restaurant frequented by locals. I had fish, fries and a salad; Teresa had a large salad- with drinks- $15

In the morning we drove to Wolf's Lair which was the forward command headquarters for the Nazis on the Eastern Front during WW2. The security for the complex was provided by the terrain with bogs and lakes to the east; with camouflage by way of trees around the buildings, planted on top of the buildings and netting; and by monstrous bunkers with very thick steel reinforced concrete for walls and roofs. Hitler, Jodl, Goering, and Keitl had their own enormous personal bunkers.

Wolf's Lair was also the place Claus Von Fostenburg attempted to assassinate Hitler with a bomb in a satchel in the Conference Bunker.















The construction began in 1941 and continued through 1944. It was abandoned in 1945 due to red Army advances.










We drove back to town to visit the Boyen Fortress.





Back to the room.

We decided to eat on-site for dinner so we walked to the Taverna on the water. I finally got another kielbasa (actually two) with garlic toast, potato salad and a beer; Teresa had a Diablo pizza and white wine- $14. We went back to the room and Teresa wanted to start a fire – some fits and starts but we got it going.


We went back to the Taverna at 10:30 for me to get ice cream and Teresa to get a strawberry liqueur.

In the morning we took a very scenic drive down to Mikolajki, a very charming town which we walked around, picking up some pastry.













Carmen took us on some bad roads to Elblag. We checked in and drove to the city center which was quaint but absolutely dead. The architecture replacing the bombed out buildings was appealing but we ran out of things to do quickly. We had planned to stay for dinner but because the weather was iffy we decided to drive back to the hotel and eat at its restaurant. I had leg of duck with braised red cabbage, baked apples, roasted potatoes, beer, apple pie and ice cream; Teresa had a salad, cheese cake and wine- $41





In the morning we headed to Malbork Castle and arrived around 10:00 a.m. It was very large, very well-restored and had the best audio guide we had ever used.







The Teutonic Knights built the castle after having been invited into Poland to quell some pagan Prussians (The knights had some military training from the Crusades although they were supposed to be medical monks) They decided to stay and take over the area and held the castle for 150 years. The suffered a huge military defeat to the Polish and Lithuanians at Grunwold but held the castle (it was considered invincible) several years after that until they could no longer pay their mercenary soldiers and sold the castle to the Polish.

















After about 2 ½ hours there we headed to Gdansk. We made it in time for the 3:30 Free Walking Tour. That lasted 2 hours and was quite informative as to the history of the city and how the buildings related to it.


























After more sightseeing we went back to the room to clean up, then we went out scouting amber and restaurants.

We ate at Literaki and it was very good. We split a large Caesar Salad with anchovies and grilled chicken and we each had pork tenderloin in balsamic/strawberry sauce with salad and mashed potatoes- beer and wine -$38.17

We strolled some more before I got chocolate ice cream made in front of me with liquid nitrogen.


In the morning we walked to the Solidarity Monument and the Solidarity Museum. It was a good museum and filled in the gaps between 1980 and 1989. The world owes a debt to the brave and tenacious Poles who eliminated European communism and the great suffering it caused.



We stopped briefly at our apartment before heading out again. We got lunch at an outdoor market consisting of a shared kielbasa and a shared potato stick- see picture. Ice Cream was next before we climbed up the town hall tower for the view.










We then went to St. Mary's basilica, the largest brick church in the world. We then walked across the green bridge and spent a little time on the other side of the river.










We then searched for the bar that had cider on tap and we found it!  After drinks, back to the room.



For dinner we went to Chleb e Wino and it was very good. Teresa had wine, I had sangria- we shared some bruschetta. I had spaghetti amatraciana; Teresa had spicy pork ribs and potato salad with smoky bacon- $31

On the way back I got a mixed swirled ice cream cone.

We drove out early and first went to Torun, a nice quaint town that was hopping. We got some pastry upon arrival. The town was known for gingerbread. Teresa had no gingerbread; I had gingerbread …. ice cream, along with snickers ice cream- very good combination. 




   

We then went to Warsaw airport to return our car and took a taxi to our apartment – we then walked quite a distance along the pedestrian street to Old Town.















We came back- cleaned up and went to eat at D.K. Clerq's. We shared some olive oil garlic bread and both had cider, and we both had the chicken wrapped with bacon and onion skewer with potatoes and cabbage salad- $30.80.

We then walked to Old Town but I found no ice cream to my liking.





In the morning we grabbed pastry on the way to Old Town for the Old Town Free Walking Tour. Pse was our guide and he was very good. We learned a lot of Warsaw history.













We went back to the apartment for a few minutes then got the best kebabs we had in Poland. We finished them on the way to the Jewish Free walking Tour which started at 2:00 p.m. Same guide- more history.



From the end of that tour we took a bus to the Jasilinski Park where we walked around, stopped at a cafe for some Strong Bows and shared 5 scoops of ice cream.



We took the bus back to our apartment.

For dinner we went to Frida's, a Mexican restaurant as we had always seen it crowded. We shared a starter of empanados. I had a burrito and a beer, Teresa had a salad and wine- $34.

In the morning we took the Metro to the Uprising Museum. We thought it opened at 8:00 arrived at 9:00 but it didn't open until 10:00. We therefore walked some in the new town, got some pastry then went to the Museum which was well done and informative.







We Metro-ed back to the apartment, paid for our room and then went to a “milk bar” for lunch. Milk bars are holdovers from communist days as a place to get a cheap lunch, buffet style. We had lasagna and slaw- $6.

After lunch we walked to the Royal Castle. It was a long walk because the police had cordoned off about a kilometer of the main road and we had to go around. A parade with expected demonstrations were in the offing and there was a huge police presence.

The restored Palace of the Kings of Poland had very sumptuous rooms which were intended to be true to the originals.








We did not have to walk far for another great meal. I finally had roast pig nuckle with sauerkraut and bread and sangria; Teresa had pork and stewed sauerkraut with mushrooms. We each had apple pie with ice cream for dessert- $38


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